As a member of the mystery writers group Sister in Crime (SinC, for short), I receive a monthly email update called Sinc Links, a kind of round-up of things that affect the publishing and writing world in general, and mystery writers in particular. Many indie authors (myself included) are members of SinC. So I was surprised at the tone and content of SinC’s latest email.
August’s SinC Links led with this paragraph:
Just days after our last issue went to press, Publishers Weekly broke this story of how Douglas Preston and hundreds of authors urge Amazon to settle their dispute with Hachette.
(For those of you who don’t know, the Preston letter is now infamous among indie authors for being chronically short on facts and representing the interests of a tiny minority of super-successful traditionally-published authors…while purporting to speak for all writers, everywhere.)
The email then listed, in order:
- A Gigaom article outlining the letter Amazon sent to Hachette authors, offering to partner with Hachette to compensate them for 100% of sales’ revenue lost during the negotiation (pro-Amazon)
- “A little humor spoofing the situation,” a video link which turns out to be a clueless, factless send-up created by Hachette author Malcolm Gladwell and Dick Cavett, hosted on the Amazon-hating Slate (anti-Amazon)
- A Wired article on Kindle Unlimited, with the intro “Is this a good idea for authors?” (neutral, although I would argue a biased title)
- Link to a Hugh Howey article on KU (pro-Amazon), but no mention that he was the instigator of the counter-letter to Preston’s, signed by thousands of indie authors
- Link to the (Amazon bashing) NY Times with the title “Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed.” It’s actually a debatably pro-Amazon article, but with an anti-Amazon, click-bait title by the NYT and an anti-Amazon intro by SinC: “The success story with a great title…”
- While not specifically anti-Amazon, a line item further down the email introduced itself as, “Surprise! Writing for most of us is getting less lucrative—and each author has to choose her own path.” (emphasis mine) The article linked is a Guardian story with the title “Traditional publishing is ‘no longer fair or sustainable’, says Society of Authors”–a nominally pro-self-publishing/anti-traditional slant not mentioned in SinC’s intro.The data culled in the article is largely drawn from traditionally published authors and bashes the poor terms heaped on trad authors, while suggesting self-publishing may be a viable avenue for many. So, shouldn’t the article read “No Surprise! Traditional publishing contracts are getting less lucrative–and smart writers are taking the path to self-publishing”?
Unhappy is one word to describe my reaction upon reading this month’s Sinc Links. The lack of fairness and equivalency (and may I point out that fairness is not countering a full-on bash of Amazon with a factual article–one is slander, the other is news. Fairness would be covering news with news.) is alarming in an official organ, of course, but worse is the integrated, pervasive bias: the “writing for most of us” comment, the “a little humor” comment, the “great title” comment.
Maybe I’m overreacting, but it’s this kind of bias that led to organizations like the Author’s Guild becoming so toxic–their agenda is with traditional publishing and no one else.
SinC’s mission statement is thus:
The mission of Sisters in Crime is to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.
It says nothing about traditional or independent being a major qualifier. In fact, the next line in SinC’s bylaws is, “Membership is open to all persons worldwide who have a special interest in mystery writing and in furthering the purposes of Sisters in Crime, Inc.” (emphasis mine). The fact that SinC did not have traditionally biased publishing requirements–like the moribund Mystery Writers of America–for full membership is what attracted me to it in the first place.
As the Amazon-Hachette dispute continues to burn, writers like me are going to be paying special attention to the official utterances of organizations that claim to represent all writers. The day it becomes apparent that they don’t will become the last day of my membership.
I was irked enough by the email to respond directly to SinC.
I was disappointed to see in today’s SinC newsletter that you gave Douglas Preston’s letter front-and-center attention but failed to even mention the counter-letter (https://www.change.org/petitions/hachette-stop-fighting-low-prices-and-fair-wages) that, to date, has 7,636 signatures, including such indie lights as Hugh Howey (who was fit to quote on Kindle Unlimited, but not the Hachette-Amazon dispute–he was the author responsible for starting the counter-letter), CJ Lyons, Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, and obviously many others.
One of the ongoing problems with the Hachette-Amazon issue is the lack of balanced coverage. With much larger megaphones and infinitely deeper pockets, the likes of Hachette authors James Patterson, Stephen Colbert, and Douglas Preston get to shout their viewpoint from the mountaintop while literally thousands of independent authors–with equally valid opinions and stories–are ignored at the bottom.
While SinCLinks did a passing job of mentioning a few indies in the July issue, there’s precious little of that here–and plenty of Amazon bashing, to boot. If you’re going to mention one letter making the news about the publishing the brouhaha, it stands to reason you should mention the other.
SinC is an organization composed of writers of all stripes and, as such, should honor an obligation to report on issues that affect all writers equally.